Of his 74 years of life, Viktor Zakharchenko has dedicated 37 years to carry out the fire protection. Since 1996, he is retired. He told us a lot of details about the everyday life of the Chernobyl.
In 1986 was a year has passed since Victor Zakharchenko was appointed head of the regional department of the State Fire Service in Transcarpathia (Zakarpattya). Then the accident at the Chernobyl was reported as a mediocre fire. Only after attending the spot, Viktor Zakharchenko comprehended the situation.
Fire protection in the area was carried out by a combined unit, which involved representatives of different regions of Ukraine. June 13, 1987 it was Zakharchenko’s time to lead this unit.
“The first days of my service in Chernobyl began from the fire at the station, - says the liquidator. – At that time, intensive repairs were carried out there. The task was to liquidate one of the metal constructions of the third block. To speed up the process, one of the workers decided to use a blowtorch. It caused burning of the cables in special tunnel (the cable was as thick as a fist); the cables provided power in all devices of the block. After this incident, every production meeting began with a review and resolution of issues related to fire safety.
Our next guard guarded the station while carrying a service directly in the first turbine building, where two water tankers and a couple of special equipment vehicles were located”.
“The dosimetrist worked with me quite often. And once... The device shows 125 röntgen, while the normal rate is 10-12 röntgen. The concrete on the facade was just "raying." By the way, insects were a kind of "dosimetrists" in the contaminated areas. When the X-rays were growing up, flies and mosquitoes disappeared,” Viktor continues the story.
- It is true that not everything in Chernobyl was contaminated. People were fishing, collecting mushrooms. Then brought it to the laboratory, where for about ten minutes, these natural resources were tested for radiation. Often they were in the normal range. Then the radiation accumulated in the fish bones, and meat could be eaten. Pikes were as big as an elbow!
Our employees were deeply aware of the seriousness of the situation, we put the execution of the duty above the personal interests, knowing that they are working at great risk to life. They bravely overcome all the difficulties and the danger.
Minutes of hard physical and mental efforts embraced all the days of the stay in the zone, during which Viktor had to extinguish around twenty fires. The houses were burned, the peat was smoldering.
- The most memorable fire in Prypyat took place at the plant "Yupiter," perhaps because it was very difficult, - says the veteran. One of the shops was damaged. - It's a shame, but we must admit that everything was not that smooth at the time of liquidation of consequences of the disaster, as reported by media. Then we, the liquidators have encountered many failures that have been forced to travel on the go.
I remember mending of the roof of the first unit, which was carried out by the soldiers. According to the technology, they were to package old roofing materials in plastic bags and gently lower them down. But they were just throwing the remains from top to bottom, rising columns of radioactive dust. Again ignorance. Before that we were only aware of the existence of ionizing radiation (gamma-ray). We did not know that a simple technical dust carried with it the danger of beta particles, which can cause radiation burns when radioactive dust gets inside of man and on the skin. We had no personal devices for determining the level of beta-radiation. Therefore, people received high doses of radiation (on average they exceeded the norm by 200-400 times), but no one knew about the mortal danger. However, every day dosimetrist checked our stuff – the hand rolled over. Then we threw away different things: mattresses, blankets, pillows, bed linen, tunics, pants, shoes, sword belts, shirts, and other things that were in use.”
Later, back in the Carpathian region, Viktor felt consequences of the invisible Chernobyl radiation on his health through unbearable pain in his throat. Twice a week, he went to Uzhgorod doctors who systematically tried to “clean” his throat. However, the desired results of the treatment did not work. Then he went to Kyiv, where he was sent for examination to the Institute of Neurosurgery. The doctors identified the true extent of contamination of the body - 60 röntgen (the first category of Chernobyl disabled), instead of 3 röntgen, it has been recorded in the medical card of the liquidator.
Instead of one shift (15 days), Viktor Zakharchenko stayed in Chernobyl for three shifts. 45 days without rest.
“I often look back on those 45 days and nights spent in the Chernobyl zone. Years pass, and they will not be erased - on the contrary, they rise above time. Indeed, everything could be seen from a distance,” concludes this courageous man who, along with others, had bravely fought against nuclear enemy.